Preparing for Breast Reconstruction following Illness

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Preparing for reconstruction surgery after mastectomy, following breast cancer, should be carefully considered. The most important question is, "Do I really want to undergo another major operation?"

Make an appointment with your oncologist and taking your partner to the consultation. One must obviously have a good rapport with your doctor. Many studies have been done on the results and satisfaction of both women and their partners who have or have not undergone reconstruction surgery.

Breast reconstruction can be done in one of two ways. The breast can be reconstructed from tissue and muscle of the patient, usually from the abdominal area. The alternative is a reconstruction using silicone implants.

If the patient has had radiotherapy, the risk of surgery is greater, as the healing powers of the tissue in the area where radiotherapy has been performed is not as good as that of un-radiated tissue.

The trauma of major surgery must be considered. The mastectomy and the reconstruction can be done in one long operation lasting about 4 to 6 hours. This is recommended, as it will reduce the trauma of having the mastectomy and then having another operation to reconstruct at a later stage.

Two surgeons are usually needed, one to do the mastectomy, which requires an expert who knows how mush of the breast tissue must be removed and what is the minimum breast tissue that needs to be left. It is impossible to remove 100% of the breast tissue. Several lymph nodes under the arm are also removed for biopsy.

A plastic or aesthetic surgeon is needed for the reconstruction. One must check that the plastic surgeon has a recognized diploma in reconstructive surgery. Any doctor can perform reconstructive surgery, so ask around and check qualifications with your medical licensing board.

Research shows that the level of satisfaction of women and their partners who have had breast reconstruction surgery after mastectomy is no higher than those who have opted not to have reconstructive breast surgery. This may be surprising, but it is true.

The most important factor is, do you yourself need the pain and suffering of a major operation? You have already had one of the most serious illnesses that medical science can treat. Do you need to suffer more? Does your partner support you in your decision? This decision should be that of the patient's, but she should feel that whatever decision made is done with the support of her partner.

My wife and I have gone through this most trying of times. We did it together, with the help of very sympathetic oncologist. He gave us all the time needed and all the facts he had at his disposable. The surgeon was equally understanding and approachable. Without these two great doctors, the experience would have been hell. However difficult it was for my wife, she made the decision and I backed her decision unreservedly.

My wife decided not to have reconstructive breast surgery after her double mastectomy. I was at first concerned how I would react. I talked it over on my own with another doctor, for my own peace of mind and to express my concerns. Once I had talked it through I knew that whatever my wife decided, I loved her. If she did not want the trauma of major surgery, I was going to give her my full support.

It is now 7 years since my wife had her double mastectomy and I still find her physically attractive, because I love her and could not bear to see her suffer more than absolutely necessary. Our love life has not been affected and after the scare of cancer I'm just grateful to have her happy and healthy once again.

More about this author: Henry Tobias

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